Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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If you’re going to limit your DCEU movies, I have to say you picked the best two!

The Death of Stalin (2017) is very entertaining. It's a dark comedy based upon actual events. Don't watch it with the kids.

Mary Poppins Returns.

What can I say? Oh ... um ... well, it got better before it was over.

A belated sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins, it takes place about 25 years or so after the original. The Banks children, Michael and Jane, are all growed up. Michael is now a grieving widower with three moppets of his own, and sister Ellen and faithful housekeeper Jane help them get along. 

Into this gloomy, joyless home comes Mary Poppins, just as Michael is about to lose the family homestead to greedy bankers who demand the mortgage be paid in full by the end of the week. The only hope of avoiding this fate is locating certificates that show the family owns shares in the bank.

During the search for this McGuffin, Mary Poppins and the kids have fanciful adventures. The filmmakers strain mightily to recapture the sense of wonder of the original film, and boy, is it a chore to watch them do it.

As the lead, Emily Blunt is a little too chilly and stern for too much of the film. When she softens a little and smiles, she's much better. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the darling of Hamilton, is game as lamplighter Jack, but somehow, what he does doesn't connect. Jack seems to be sweet on Ellen, but the romance, such as it is, is so underdeveloped, it's baffling why they bothered to include it.

The songs are unmemorable and the resolution of the plot is unconvincing. It isn't until a not-so-surprise cameo by a beloved Broadway song-and-dance man four-fifths of the way in that the movie gets a jolt of much-needed life. And another surprise cameo (well, it was a surprise to us, anyway) by another living show-business legend brings things home. 

Mary Poppins Returns isn't terrible, but it is a missed opportunity.

Last night I watched  The Thing From Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982).

Those are a few of my favorite things!



The Baron said:

Last night I watched  The Thing From Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982).

Recent movies watched? An odd batch:

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018): an inspirational film that’s actually somewhat inspirational, and pretty funny at times, to boot. Owes much to a strong cast.

Jane (2017): The Jane Goodall doc features incredible footage taken by her husband for National Geographic, as it looks at one of our era’s most memorable lives.

Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015): impressive doc on Janis Joplin

Juliet, Naked (2018): Indiesque Rom-Com involving a reclusive singer whose brief career obsesses aging hipsters.... Okay, it's better than that sounds.

Love, Gilda (2018): I now know more about Gilda Radner and even the original Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players. A strong doc contextualizing pieces of pop-culture history.

Lizzie (2018): well-acted, highly speculative account of the Fall Rivers Murders.

Marwencol (2010): The recent "based on a true story" drama has received less-than-great reviews, but the doc is worth seeing. When does therapy become art? When does it become obsession?

Masculin Feminin (1966): a heavily-improvised film that holds up far better than I would have expected..

Mondo Hollywood (1968): Marginally less stupid than its inspiration, Mondo Cane, but a timepiece that says more now about the attitudes of the filmmakers and the audience than of the people depicted .

The Moonstone (2016): a fairly effective, low-budget adaptation of the Victorian mystery novel.

Pauline a la Plage (1983): low-key, well-acted comedy/drama with some now-surprising attitudes along the way.

Psych-Out (1968): Hippie exploitation films rarely hold up, but this one, with Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Dean Stockwell, among others, still works, and features a woman with a disability as its heroine, a rare thing for its time. Susan Strassberg does a great job, though she's too old to be a runaway sought by police. Future TV impresario Gerry Marshall has a cameo as a detective who clearly recalls the time before the hippies as happy days. Cinematography by László Kovács.

The Secrets of the Pirates Inn (1969): If I saw this Disney TV movie in ’69, I have no memory of it. Adapted from a 1968 kids novel, they changed the names of the main characters, and then reused them in another film I do recall, The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cover (1971) Cove adapts its story from an entirely different children’s author. Pirates Inn really seems like the low-budget inspiration to Goonies, and I liked it a lot more.

Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967): Korea’s hilariously awful answer to Godzilla. Even more shocking is that someone actually remade it, years later.

I love Ocean's Eleven (the remake, not the original). I can always drop what I'm doing and watch it.

I love Ocean's Thirteen. I can always drop what I'm doing and watch it.

Ocean's Twelve? Meh. 

We watched Ocean's Twelve again last night, and were reminded why it was a disappointment. It's set two or three years after Ocean's Eleven, and casino owner Terry Benedict has tracked down Danny Ocean and his crew and wants the money stolen in the first flick, plus interest.

Collectively, the guys have spent about half of it. (Reuben still has his entire share: "What, the workings of the stock market are some great mystery?") So they need a big score, and quick. Things are too hot in the U.S., so they go to Amsterdam, to steal the first stock certificate ever issued from the first company that ever issued stocks. It's kept in the home of a reclusive collector who never goes outside.

After that, somehow they find themselves in a competition against master thief Toulour (named "the Night Fox"). Toulour stole the stock certificate before they did. Toulour is insulted that Lemarc, a living legend in the underworld of thieves, regards Ocean and company as better than he. Toulour proposes that he and Ocean steal the Faberge Egg from the Rome Museum. If he wins, he gets bragging rights; if he loses, he'll pay off their debt to Benedict.

The movie is kind of dull. Instead of being a breezy, fun tale, taking the action out of Las Vegas somehow sucks the air out things. It doesn't help that it sidelines Bernie Mac and Carl Reiner for long stretches. It also doesn't help that it hangs one bit of business on the notion that Tess, played by Julia Roberts, looks just like Julia Roberts -- so much so that her old friend Bruce Willis, who just happens to be in Rome, is fooled.

Instead of bringing you along for the ride, it gets you thinking about the plot and saying "Hey, that doesn't make sense!" and that's fatal to a caper movie. Like the plan to steal the stock certificate: It calls for firing a crossbow bolt through an open second-floor window from across the street with a device that will hack into and disable the alarm system. Problem is, they don't have a line-of-sight view from house across the street into that window. Solution: Rent equipment to cut the house's foundations and jack it up a few inches. It seemed to me to be far simpler to cut a hole in the wall in that house across the street so they could get the right angle. 

Yes, I know that in Ocean's Eleven, they got a machine to cause an electromagnetic pulse to black out the whole city of Las Vegas, but that made sense. And the way they beat Toulour, by stealing the Faberge Egg before it even got to the museum makes sense -- but are we supposed to believe it was transported in such a sloppy and unsecured way? I couldn't. 

The Other Side of the Wind: This is Alfred Hitchcock's last movie, finished at last. Kind of. I thought it was really entertaining and a little unnerving. I'm sure that's what he intended. It would have been good to see it as finished by Hitchcock himself, but this is the best we can get, and it's pretty great. It's kind of a movie within a movie, about a director at the end of his career and his last great movie. It's full of big personalities, much like I would bet Hollywood is.

Isn't this Orson Welles's last film?

Hitchcock's last film was Family Plot, I believe (which takes the somewhat darker airport novel, The Rainbird Pattern, and plays it as a dark comedy).

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

The Other Side of the Wind: This is Alfred Hitchcock's last movie, finished at last. Kind of. I thought it was really entertaining and a little unnerving. I'm sure that's what he intended. It would have been good to see it as finished by Hitchcock himself, but this is the best we can get, and it's pretty great. It's kind of a movie within a movie, about a director at the end of his career and his last great movie. It's full of big personalities, much like I would bet Hollywood is.

Well, this one wasn't finished in Welles's time. This one was only recently finished, although obviously not by him. Netflix funded its completion, and also put out the Orson Welles documentary called They'll Love Me When I'm Dead.

It was interesting. I have to admit that the only other movies I've seen from Welles are Citizen Kane and Don Quixote, and I saw those during my college days in the 90's.

This one had a lot more nudity, and was much more artsy-feeling than either of those movies as I recall. I thought it was pretty good. It sticks with you, that's for sure.

JD DeLuzio said:

Isn't this Orson Welles's last film?

Hitchcock's last film was Family Plot, I believe (which takes the somewhat darker airport novel, The Rainbird Pattern, and plays it as a dark comedy).

We've seen several we haven't mentioned here:

  • The Upside -- Kevin Hart takes a rare dramatic role as an ex-con who becomes the hired caretaker to Bryan Cranston's paraplegic celebrity business mogul and best-selling author. It's an American remake of the French film The Intouchables, which is, as they say, based on a true story. I am not the biggest Kevin Hart fan, but here, he dialed back his usual annoyingness by half, which served the story. Still, this movie doesn't rise above another unnecessary "Magic Negro" flick.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part -- Not quite as awesome as The LEGO Movie, or even The LEGO Batman Movie, but still fun. Where The LEGO Movie held back on the real-world action that was metaphorically represented in the LEGO world, this movie integrates the two. It's a few years later, and the LEGO world is infiltrated by interlopers -- who are really the boy's kid sister and her set of LEGOs. He wants to play his way, she wants to play her way, and their bickerring is driving Mom -- played by the always welcome Maya Rudolph -- up the wall. 
  • Tag -- Another based on a true story movie, it's about a quartet of guys who had so much fun one summer playing tag when they were all about 9 years old that they keep doing it one month out of the year every year. The five -- Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Burruss and Jeremy Renner -- drop whatever they are doing, travel wherever they need to go, and pick up where they left off from the previous year, employing athleticism, guile, subterfuge, disguises, chicanery and even burglary. Their mantra is "You don't stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing." It's good, clean fun and lots of laughs.
  • S.W.A.T.: Firefight -- A straight-to-video sequel to S.W.A.T., starring Gabriel Macht  a couple years after he killed his movie career with The Spirit and just before he settled into a long run on TV's Suits. Anyhoo, he's Paul Cutler, a hotshot S.W.A.T. commander (is there any other kind?) for the L.A.P.D. Cutler is detached to Detroit for two weeks to train their S.W.A.T. team in the latest techniques and grant them FBI-level certification if they pass. Of course, he butts heads with the cocky members of the team. Of course, his perfect record of never losing a hostage comes to an end, in a domestic dispute gone way, way wrong. The wife they rescue from her abusive husband one day kills herself right in front of them because he's that bad of a dude -- he's some kind of a black ops supersoldier. He takes revenge on Cutler for letting his wife die, which leads to more gratuitous violence than should be allowed in a straight-to-video movie. 
  • Claudine -- This was Valentine's Day fare, although the longer it went on, the more it moved out of the romantic comedy vein into social message drama. Diahann Carroll is the Claudine Price of the title, a twice-divorced single mom with six children from the two failed marriages. She supports them on public assistance, which back then (1974) was called "welfare," supplemented with work on the side as a maid. She's sweet on garbageman Rupert "Roop" Marshall, played by the garrulous James Earl Jones, who has an out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind ex-wife and kids himself. Their first date is disastrous; Claudine gets home late from work and can't take a bath and change because all the kids are around, so Roop takes her to his place, and she's so beat, she falls asleep while taking a bath.

    Much is made of the welfare system bureaucracy: Not working brands you as lazy, but welfare payments are reduced by the amount of any money you make -- and not declaring that income makes you a fraud. Bringing a man into the house means she'll get cut off entirely, and there's a nosy social worker who makes the occasional random inspection to ensure that isn't the case, or that everything is reported so cuts can be made in the allotment.

    Claudine also has a hard time keeping her kids in line. Eldest son Charles (played by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs in his first role) is a cynical self-styled revolutionary. Eldest daughter Charlene starts tipping out of the house to meet up with a boy, with the easy-to-foresee result. Then one day, Roop gets hit with a judgment for back child support; he responds by going on a bender and dropping out of sight for several days, leading the kids to think he's abandoned them and their mother. But he screws his head on straight and, despite the financial hit they'll take, Claudine and Roop get married. The ending is weird, but love conquers all. Sort of. 

Watched Valley of the Gwangi for the first time. Like the Baron, I'm trying to check off boxes of famous stuff I've never seen or read before it doesn't matter any more.

It was more interesting than I expected. I thought it would be crude and stupid -- and it was. But it was made during the time when cowboy crap was a big deal, so it was basically a cowboy move ... where they fought dinosaurs!

Sadly, it was stop-motion dinosaurs, which haven't aged well. And there was lot of "men on horses racing around" scenes, like old '40s cowboy movie-serial stuff, which was boring.(But it saved money!) And the "heroism" thing was kinda muddied. The guy who had run off to get rich and broke the lead actress' heart really doesn't have an answer for that behavior, but does become the hero, sorta, when he tries to steer the heroine away from the false glamor of money to a ranch in Montana, so I guess he's ... not a dick? I can't really tell.

The real mensch in the show is a guy named Carlos, who throws himself into every dangerous situation to save the girl, and nobody gives a shit, because he's Hispanic. He ends up dying to save her, and nobody even notices. What?!??

And another thing: James Franciscus as the romantic male lead. This deserves a rant.

I will tell you here and now that I was baffled as a young boy about what to do with girls because movies kept giving me false signals. You know, boys and girls would show no interest in each other, only to fall in love in the end. Or they'd hate each other, only to fall in love in the end. You get the idea.

But there was also the "this is what passion/sex looks like" scenes, where (out of the blue) our hero and heroine would bang their faces against each other. No actual kissing, of course, just sort of a "let's push out clenched teeth against each other and then pretend this is orgasmic" sort of scene, which left the young Captain going, "huh?"

But all of this was compounded by the many lead Hollywood men -- men I looked to for signals about how to grow up and be a man, a heterosexual man-- who were gay. And really didn't like kissing girls.

That was a real problem! I was already being told by the immature members of my gender that girls had cooties and whatnot. And that we were supposed to like them. Or .. want them, in some undefined way. Which I KNEW was wrong .... but nothing in the pop culture landscape helped me. Especially homosexual men in lead roles pretending to be heterosexual men.

Valley of the Gwangi is a case in point. The lead man -- the heterosexual lead man -- is played by James Franciscus. Who was FABULOUSLY gay. In fact, he had a fabulous gay tan in this movie. His face was darker than his teeth. His face was darker than the Hispanics in the movie, which was much of the other men.

Anyway, my point is: He was supposed to be painfully in love with the female lead. She was supposed to be painfully in love with him. And it would serve the movie if they could convince us of this.

But they couldn't. Franciscus was always more interested in everything else BUT the girl throughout the movie. Often she would have her (big) tits on display, and he never even glanced at them. (The other actors did.)

And as a grown-up, heterosexual male, I know which camp I'D be in! That lady was HOT!

But back in the day, I was wastching movies where Rock Hudson and James Franciscus and other gay actors were the male leads, and I"D BE SO CONFUSED!

I mean, there were really sexy girls all around, and they weren't the slightest bit interested! They never gawked at a pretty girl, which I was already doing. They behaved as if women were invisible, and for God's sake, that wasn't remotely true. Pretty girls were everywhere in my young life! Was I supposed to never look at them, talk to then, be interested in them? That's what James Franciscus was telling me.

Valley of the Gwangi is a case in point. Franciscus is the hero, but it's Carlos who showed the only normal heterosexual reaction to the female lead. He was also the actual hero, although Franciscus gets the credit.

So those are my thoughts on this movie on my bucket list.

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